By Ryan Basso
The holidays are coming fast and the season of traditional family fare is about to blow into town like a ferocious storm. In preparation for the onslaught of poultry, stuffing and mashed vegetables, we need to prepare our stomachs and our bank accounts. That’s why I say there is no better time of year for watching a game and gathering around a piping hot grill.
Carbon Grill in the Outer Richmond on the corner of Clement Street and 10th Avenue is a big Korean BBQ restaurant that resembles one of the neighborhood’s many Irish sports bars. They’ve got a bunch of beers on tap, communal tables, and TVs all over the place. The concrete tables sprawled among the dining room all have a steel grill in the center, turned on and preheating upon the guest’s arrival.
When it comes to all-you-can-eat BBQ or hot pot, there are two major things to consider: variety and price. Sometimes the price can be a little steep and other times the options are a little sparse, but the trick is to find the best bang for your buck while also getting a decent selection.
For $30 guests can order beef, pork, lamb, seafood, veggies, noodles, and more. The irony in this abundance of choices is that you don’t have to make one. Vegetarians and meat eaters alike can share a giant feast and leave equally satisfied, so let’s get started.
I like to ease into the journey with some grilled vegetables and strong Korean flavors like kimchi, garlic string beans, and spicy marinated enoki mushrooms. Then it’s time for some seafood. This course consists of fresh shrimp, scallops on the half shell, calamari steaks, spicy octopus, and live mussels. The calamari steaks are my favorite. Thick, springy calamari meat is scored, cut into rectangles, and layed on the grill. The white flesh is quickly darkened with grill marks and forms an outer crust that blends beautifully with the meat’s tender center. As the fish begins to dwindle down, it’s time to place another order and move onto deeper, heartier meats.
Platters of pork belly and cheek, marinated slices of ribeye, short rib and beef tongue, plates of chicken wings and skewers of lamb all descend onto the table like an invasion of flying saucers. A mixture of meats pile onto the grill and spit smoke and oils into the air that hover over the table. The cuts of beef develop a distinguishable outer crust, while the fatty pork slices become like slivers of piggy butter. After about 45 minutes, everything begins to meld together and the grill is covered with the majority of the animal kingdom. The party has gone off the rails and whatever room is left in your stomach will be reserved for a few, carefully selected second helpings.
Carbon Grill is Korean BBQ at its best. It’s affordable and casual while also feeling like a special treat. So go get together and eat with friends before the madness of the holiday season ensues and we’re all too busy to even remember what it was like to feel hungry.
852 Clement St., 415-753-9966